A man who pleaded guilty to stealing ballots from a polling station he was working at in San Francisco’s Crocker Amazon neighborhood last November was set to be released next week but will stay in jail a little while longer after a bizarre sentencing hearing today.
Karl Bradfield Nicholas, 51, had pleaded guilty to stealing the ballots, a voter roster, and a memory box and access key to a voting machine from the station on Knott Court where he was working as a poll worker supervisor on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2010.
Nicholas was arrested early the next day and the ballots were later found in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts, prosecutors said.
Nicholas was set to be sentenced in San Francisco Superior Court this morning to a year in county jail as part of a plea deal agreed upon in December, but with credit for time served, he would be released on Tuesday.
At this morning’s hearing, Nicholas was in the process of being sentenced when he said he did not understand an issue with his restitution, which requires him to reveal to prosecutors the location of the memory box and key, which were not found with the ballots at the lagoon.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Katz, who was prosecuting the case, said, “It’s important to the Department of Elections to find out where they are.”
Judge Susan Breall echoed that sentiment, saying, “Any time you’re tampering with an election, that’s serious business, sir.”
At that point, Nicholas apparently asked his defense attorney, Stuart Blumstein, to have a different judge sentence him by refusing an Arbuckle waiver, a court rule which allows a different judge to sentence a defendant if the judge who accepted the plea is not available.
Blumstein said outside of court that Nicholas did not want Breall to sentence him because he felt she was “intimidating him.”
But the judge who accepted the plea will not be available until July 11, so the sentencing hearing was rescheduled for that date.
Blumstein argued that Nicholas should still be released on Tuesday.
“For some reason we want to keep him in longer,” he said. “That’s not fair.”
But Breall refused, saying “we can’t do anything until he’s sentenced” and added that “he is lucky to get the resolution that he got.”
NIcholas’ plea deal also included three year’s probation and an order to stay away from polling places in the city.
If he does get sentenced on July 11, it will bring to a close a circuitous case that has included three judges and two defense attorneys.
In April, Nicholas had also asked to have his guilty plea withdrawn, a motion denied by the judge.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News